Launching her career in the mid-1940s as a cabaret dancer at the Tropicana, then as a singer with Orquesta Anacaona, Omara Portuondo joined with Elena Burke, Moraima Secada and her sister Haydee in 1952 to form the legendary female vocal quartet, Cuartet D'Aida. In the 1950s and 1960s, working with piano genius Frank Emilio Flynn, she became the definitive interpreter of filin ("feeling"), a sentimental Cuban-tinged blend of jazz and bossa nova. In the 1970s Portuondo toured as an international musical ambassador with the charanga group Orquesta Aragón. In recent years she has released two solo efforts on Intuition-Nubenegra, and collaborated with the Afro Cuban All Stars and Buena Vista Social Club projects, Orquesta Aragón, Ibrahim Ferrer, Barbarito Torres and Chucho Valdés. In the Buena Vista Social Club, her poignant duet with Ibrahim Ferrer on Silencio is arguably the film's defining moment.
With Buena Vista Social Club Presents... she consolidates her position as one of the island's enduring vocal talents, backed by a number of Buena Vista stalwarts including Ferrer, Pio Leyva, pianist Rubén González, and guitarists Manuel Galbán, Eliades Ochoa and Compay Segundo. The recording captures the lush Cuban orchestral sound of the 1950s and 1960s, melding strings and clarinets with a subtle percussive grounding and the Cuban bolero ("La Sitiera," "He Perdido Contigo"), son ("No Me Llores Mas," "Veinte Años"), mambo ("Donde Estabas Tú?") and such romantic classics as Canta Lo Sentimental and Siempre En Mi Corazón, the Ernesto Lecuona chestnut. Now in her 70th year, as heard on this recording, Portuondo's bittersweet vocal oeuvre projects the knowing tristeza of another era, love's vagaries endured, and a life fully lived. - Michael Stone
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